Atheism and naturalism

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If philosophical naturalism were true, then we ought not to trust our capacity for reason for the human brain would be a byproduct of blind/unintelligent natural forces. [1] See: Atheism and reason and Atheism and the brain

A majority of atheists hold to the philosophy of naturalism which rejects the miraculous.

If naturalism is true, then we ought not to trust our capacity for reason for the human brain would be a byproduct of blind/unintelligent natural forces. [2] Therefore, believing in naturalism is self-defeating (see: Atheism and reason).

In addition, scientific naturalism proposes that only explanations which can be scientifically tested are valid, yet this proposition cannot be scientifically tested. Therefore, scientific naturalism is self-refuting.[3] See also: Atheism and incoherency

However, when it comes to belief in life after death and other matters, a significant portion of atheists reject naturalism in various instances (see: Atheism and the supernatural).

Christian apologist Tom Gilson on atheism and naturalism

The Christian apologist Tom Gilson made three points about atheism and naturalism:

1. Biblical religion has no conceptual problems whatsoever with consciousness, mind, rationality, good and evil, purpose, meaning, beauty, or morality, since these things are at the heart of all reality in the person of God.

2. Naturalism can explain all these things, but its explanations deny and defy everything we know to be true about ourselves and the world we live in. They don’t account for all the facts, especially the facts of our own experience. So they’re not good explanations.

3. Naturalistic atheism is often considered a default position, the natural way to regard reality. Theism is often considered an extraordinary belief requiring extraordinary evidence. But I think it’s the other way around. Naturalistic atheism is a strange and extraordinary belief, in that it implies that there’s something not quite real about consciousness, mind, rationality, good and evil, purpose, meaning, beauty, and morality. Don’t we all know better than that?[4]

The argument from beauty argues the existence of beauty in the natural world testifies to the existence of God who both designed natural beauty and who possesses a divine beauty. Objective beauty exists and beauty is not merely subjective in nature.[5]


Alvin Plantinga on atheism and naturalism

Justin Taylor in his article entitled An Atheist Philosopher Predicts Scientific Naturalism Will One Day Be Laughable wrote:

Alvin Plantinga reviews Thomas Nagel’s new book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press, 2012) in The New Republic. Here’s how it begins:

According to a semi-established consensus among the intellectual elite in the West, there is no such person as God or any other supernatural being. Life on our planet arose by way of ill-understood but completely naturalistic processes involving only the working of natural law. Given life, natural selection has taken over, and produced all the enormous variety that we find in the living world. Human beings, like the rest of the world, are material objects through and through; they have no soul or ego or self of any immaterial sort. At bottom, what there is in our world are the elementary particles described in physics, together with things composed of these particles.

I say that this is a semi-established consensus, but of course there are some people, scientists and others, who disagree. There are also agnostics, who hold no opinion one way or the other on one or another of the above theses. And there are variations on the above themes, and also halfway houses of one sort or another. Still, by and large those are the views of academics and intellectuals in America now. Call this constellation of views scientific naturalism—or don’t call it that, since there is nothing particularly scientific about it, except that those who champion it tend to wrap themselves in science like a politician in the flag. By any name, however, we could call it the orthodoxy of the academy—or if not the orthodoxy, certainly the majority opinion.

The eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel would call it something else: an idol of the academic tribe, perhaps, or a sacred cow: “I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense. . . . I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two.” Nagel is an atheist; even so, however, he does not accept the above consensus, which he calls materialist naturalism; far from it. His important new book is a brief but powerful assault on materialist naturalism.

Plantinga goes on to summarize and interact with Nagel’s arguments and alternatives. Along the way he excerpts a quote from one of Nagel’s books written in 1997 which offers some insights into Nagel’s rejection of theism:

I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. . . . It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

You can read the whole thing here.[6]

Videos: Alvin Planting on atheism and naturalism

Problems with atheism and naturalism

See also: Atheism and the origin of the universe and Anthropic principle

"The heavens are telling of the glory of God. And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1 NASB)

The article Problems With Naturalism indicates:

The most evident flaw in the naturalist's worldview is that they presuppose the laws of nature when making their case. These laws such as gravity, the strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism and so forth are powerful and precise and more importantly work in harmony, with incredible precision. While these laws standing alone would make a decisive argument for the existence of God, naturalists cannot explain why they exists, how they began, and simply presuppose them. Following are several other grave problems with naturalistic philosophy.

A Rational Universe

The rationality of the universe is astonishing to contemplate. The laws of nature not only implore unthinkable precision, but they work together with amazing balance and harmony. For example, protons are the positively charged subatomic particles which (along with neutrons) form the nucleus of an atom (around which negatively charged electrons orbit). Protons just happen to be 1,836 times larger than electrons. If they were a little bigger or a little smaller, we would not exist (because atoms could not form the molecules we require). So how did protons end up being 1,836 times larger than electrons? Why not 100 times larger or 100,000 times? Why not smaller? Of all the possible variables, how did protons end up being just the right size? Protons carry a positive electrical charge equal to that of the negatively charged electrons. If protons did not balance electrons and vice versa, we would not exist. They are not comparable in size, yet they are perfectly balanced. Did nature just stumble upon such an exact relationship, or did God create it for our sake?

A two percent increase on the strong force relative to the electromagnetic force leaves the universe with no hydrogen and no water. If the electromagnetic force relative to the gravitational force had been weaker, stars would contain a billion times less mass and would burn a million times faster. We can go on with examples but the point is that the universe displays rationality in the way the laws that govern the universe work together.

The universe displays rationality in that many of the laws that govern life systems and the universe itself are written in a specific language. In the case of the laws of nature, they are written in the language of mathematics. From the laws of motion, to the law of gravity, to general relativity, they can be explained with one simple equation. Furthermore, DNA molecules follow a language written in a four letter alphabet with complex words directing the production of very specific amino acids, which follow a 22 letter alphabetic language of their own, combining to make very specific proteins with very specific tasks. The various combinations of amino acids form proteins with different functions, such as the lens of an eye, finger nails, butterfly wings, kidney tissue, blood cells and so forth. All of these follow a written complex language.

​Finally, the fact that the human mind is capable of apprehending and understanding these laws speaks of a universe that is synchronized with our rational minds. Put another way, the fact that the universe is rationally governed by laws and that these laws are capable of being understood by rational minds supports the idea that the universe was the creative act of a rational being (God) rather the product of a chaotic cosmic accident.

While naturalists like to claim that we have a higher burden of proof in supporting the existence of God, the opposite is true. The burden of proof should be on them to explain how a chaotic, unguided, undirected event like the existence of this universe could have happened without a rational being guiding it.[7]

J.P. Moreland on naturalism

Below is a video series by the Christian apologist J.P. Moreland.

4 part series by Dr. J.P. Moreland on the philosophy of scientific naturalism

Atheism, agnosticism and naturalism related articles

Atheism, naturalism and the origin of the universe

See: Atheism and the origin of the universe and Atheism, naturalism and the origin of the universe